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Dr. Meera Chandrasekhar finalist for the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching

Award doles out $250,000, plus $25,000 for home dept.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: Dr. Meera Chandrasekhar has been named as one of three finalists for the prestigious Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching for 2014, a biennial award given out by Baylor University, for which she stands to receive a quarter-million dollars.

The Cherry Award seeks to recognize academic professionals who showcase exceptional skill and enthusiasm for teaching. The winner of the award will be selected in the spring of next year, and will receive $250,000 in prize money, which is largest monetary reward for teaching given by any university or college in the US, and $25,000 for their home department.

For being a finalist, Chandrasekhar – along with her two co-finalists, New York University Art History Prof. Joan Breton Connelly and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Economics Prof. Michael K. Salemi – will receive $15,000 each, as well as an additional $10,000 for each of their home departments in their respective institutions.

All three have given a series of lectures at their base universities on a topic of their choosing, but this will not have a bearing on them winning the award. All three additionally visited Baylor University for three days, taught two classes at that campus, and gave another public lecture there – these elements, along with interviews with faculty and students at Baylor, will be used by the Cherry Award selection team to pick the ultimate winner.

Chandrasekhar’s lecture series, which she gave at the University of Missouri, was entitled “Blind to Polarization – What Humans Cannot See.”

Chandrasekhar currently teaches at the University of Missouri, where she is a Curator’s Teaching Professor of Physics. Her teaching and research interests are in the field of optical spectroscopy; specifically, its usage in various types of conductors and polymers.

In addition to her work in the classroom and laboratory, Chandrasekhar has developed course studies for grade school-level physics classes, advocating a hands-on approach to teaching physics so that children learn and retain the concepts better. Her work in developing such curricula has been highly lauded.

Chandrasekhar earned her bachelor’s degree from Mysore’s M.G.M. College in 1968, majoring in physics and mathematics. She then went on to receive her master’s degree in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Madras two years later and another master’s degree from Brown University in 1973. She then earned her Ph.D. in physics from Brown University in 1976, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Germany, at the Max-Planck Institute.

She joined the University of Missouri faculty in 1978, making her a 35-year veteran of the institution. During her tenure at the University, she has accumulated a number of highly coveted teaching awards, including the 1992 Distinguished Alumnus Award from IIT, the National Science Foundation’s 1999 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, and the University of Missouri’s 2006 President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching.

[This story was updated on 11/26/13.]

To contact the author, email to deepakchitnis@americanbazaaronline.com